Archive for the ‘Pennant Race Baseball History’ Category

1955-American League

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The 1955 American League pennant was won after one great race, involving the close proximation of three teams through most of the season.  From April 11-May 20, during the first 40 days of the season,  the Cleveland Indians were in 1st place for 25 days.  They were never more than 1 game down; nor more than 3 games up.  The 1st Division on May 20 was: CLE 21-11 (.656) (1);  NYY 20-11 (.645) (.5);  CHW 18-12 (.600) (2);  DET 18-15 (.545) (3.5).  At this point Cleveland was 8-6 against the other 1st Division competitors.

It would next be the New York Yankees turn to dominate. They took over 1st place on May 21, with a 9-4 victory at Yankee Stadium over the Baltimore Orioles.  After home-and-home series versus Baltimore and Washington; and another series against Kansas City,  the Yankees were still in 1st.  New York had compiled a 14-2 record against  the 3 worst teams in the league and they were still only 3 games in the lead.  The 1st Division on June 2 looked like this:  NYY 33-13 (.717) (—);  CLE 29-15 (.659) (3);  CHW 27–16 (.628) (4.5);  DETT 24-20 (.545) (8).

Over the next week, playing .500 ball (4-4), New York managed to increase their lead to 5 games.  But now the White Sox were in 2nd place.  Cleveland occupied 3rd place 5 1/2 back after winning 1 and losing 6; including losing 3 out of 4 to last place Washington.  The games between the Indians and the Senators would have a major impact on the race.   New York then travelled to Cleveland to play a 4 game series.  So far, the teams had played 4 times and Cleveland had won 3 of them.  After this series, the Indians had doubled their number of victories, beating New York 3 games to 1.  This included  both ends of a Sunday doubleheader;  10-2 and 7-3. 

 Meanwhile,  Chicago was sweeping Washington in their 3-game series.  New York’s lead over the White Sox was cut to 2 1/2 games.   Cleveland continued in 3rd, 3 1/2 back.  Over the next two weeks, June 13-26, things stayed pretty much the same, except for a brief tie between New York and Chicago when Chicago won the first 2 games of a 4 game series.  The lead promptly went back to 2, when the Yankees won the last two.  New York then won 5 more in a row (the last 2 vs. Cleveland); but Chicago kept pace by winning 5 of their own. 

This neck-and-neck jockeying for position was broken, as Chicago proceeded to lose 7 of their next 8 games.  At the same time, New York went 5-2.  On the 4th of July the Indians won 2 verses Detroit; the Yankees lost 2 against Boston; and the White Sox split a pair at Kansas City.  Cleveland leaped over Chicago; and the top of the American League at the traditional half-way point in the season looked as such:  NYY 52-27 (.658) (—);  CLE 46-31 (.597) (5);  CHW 44-30 (.595) (5.5);  BOS 44-35 (.557) (8).

The rest of July was filled with exciting baseball that would change the face of the standings.  From July 5-15, New York went 4-3 (including a 2 game split at Cleveland);  Chicago was 6-3 (including a 4 game split with Cleveland); and Cleveland 5-4.  The White Sox jumped into 2nd, 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  Over the next two weeks, while New York was playing sub-.500 ball (2-5) against the other teams in the league,  Chicago was 5-3,  and Cleveland 8-5 (including a 4 game sweep of Washington).  But most consequential was the  home-and-home series that the Yankees and White Sox played.

On July 19, the White Sox entered the game at their Comiskey Park in 2nd place two games back.  New York won the first game 4-3 on Elston Howard’s  2-run HR.  Chicago, scoring 4 runs in the 1st and another 4 in the 3rd, tied the series in the 2nd game winning 8-6.  In the 3rd match, starters Whitey Ford for New York and Virgil Trucks for Chicago didn’t hang around for too long.  The Yankees scored 4 in the 1st and 2 in the 3rd; while the White Sox scored 1 in the 1st and 5 in the 2nd.  Ed Lopat (NYY) and Dixie Walker (CHW) settled things down and the score stayed knotted at 6-6 until the bottom of the 7th.  Chicago scored 3 runs on RBIs by Bob Kennedy and Sherm Lollar and won 9-6.  They picked up a game in the standings; and were now only down by 1.

After a couple of days when the two teams were tied, Chicago entered Yankee Stadium on July 26, 1 game back.  In a pitchers duel between Chicago’s Dick Donovan and New York’s Tommy Byrne,  New York won the 1st game on a Yogi Berra HR, 1-0.  Walt Dropo went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI to help Chicago win the  2nd game, 7-4.  The last game would determine whether Chicago would leave New York back 2 games or tied with the Yankees for first.  Chicago jumped off to an early 3-0 lead.  In the 9th, Yogi Berra openned the inning with a single and the next batter Mickey Mantle hit a HR to make the score 3-2.  However with the bases loaded, reliever Billy Pierce struck out pinch-hitter Jerry Coleman to save the game for Chicago, 3-2.  In the home and home series  Chicago had made up 2 games.  On July 28 the 1st Division looked like this:  CHW 59-38 (.608) (—);  NYY 60-39 (.606) (—);  CLE 59-40 (.596) (1);  BOS 57-42 (.576) (3).

The race in August was crazy as Chicago, New York, and Cleveland battled for the top spot.  There were 5 virtual ties for first (once involving all three teams) and 5 lead changes.  Perhaps even more remarkable was the fact that  the 3rd place team was 1 or less games behind for 23 of the month’s 31 days.   An example of the ups and downs of the month can be seen by looking at the Cleveland Indians.  On the up side was their two series with the Yankees, winning both 2-1. On the down side, the Indians played 7th place Washington 5 times—and lost all 5 games!

While Chicago entered September at the top of the league, their fortures began to change when they travelled to Cleveland on Sept 2 to begin a 4 game series.  Chicago won the 1st game, 8-1 on the strength of Jack Harshman’s pitching; and the hitting of Minnie Minoso (3 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBIs); Sherm Lollar (2 for 4, 2 RBIs); and Bob Kennedy (2 for 5, 2 RBIs).  Chicago’s triumph was short lived though as Cleveland went on to win the next game 6-1; and both ends of a Sunday doubleheader, 5-3. 

Winning pitchers were Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, and Mike Garcia.  Supplying crucial hitting were Larry Doby (2 HRs and 2 RBIs in the 2nd game);  Ralph Kiner (3 RBIs in the 3rd game);  and Al Smith (8 for 13,  3 Runs scored, and game winning HR in the 4th game).  After this series, Cleveland continued to play well, going 8-2.  At the same time Chicago went 5-5.  On Sept 13 they were 4 games back and out of the race.

During this period New York kept pace with Cleveland winning 6 and losing 3, splitting the 4 games they played with Cleveland and Chicago.  When they beat Detroit 6-0 on Sept 13, they were 2 games behind Cleveland.  On the 14th New York was beating Detroit again; and Cleveland was losing to its season long nemesis the Washington Senators, 3-2.  Cleveland’s lead over New York was now down to one.  The next 3 games that the two teams played would prove to be the most decisive of the season;  as 4th place  Boston arrived in New York and 5th place Detroit travelled to Cleveland.

On Sept 16, while Cleveland was losing to Detroit, 3-0 on two unearned runs and 6 innings of shutout relief pitching by Steve Gromek,  New York looked like they would not be able to capitalize.  The Yankees were ahead 2-0 in the 8th, when Boston scored 3 runs off of starter Whitey Ford.  But they were able to pull it out in the bottom of the 9th on clutch HRs from Hank Bauer and Yogi Berra.  Reliever Jim Konstanty took the win.  With the 4-3 victory, New York tied Cleveland for the lead.

During the next two games, Cleveland hitters didn’t fair much better against Detroit’s Frank Lary and Bob Miller.  They lost to Lary 3-1 on RBIs by Al Kaline and Bill Tuttle.  Next, they lost 10-3, when Detroit exploded for 6 runs in the 6th.  Meanwhile, New York was able to hold off their arch-rival Red Sox with the help of two fine pitching performances.  First, Tommy Byrne allowed only 1 run on 4 hits for a 4-1 Yankee victory.  And on Sept 18, with the score tied at 2, Bob Grim came on to relieve a wild Bob Turley and pitched 7 inning without giving up a hit. In the 5th, on what should have been the last out of the inning (1B Norm Zauchin dropped an easy pop foul and  Hank Bauer singled), Gil McDougald’s ground out to 3B scored Jerry Coleman.  It proved to be the winning run in New York’s 3-2 victory.

While New York was sweeping Boston 3-0, Cleveland could manange only 4 runs against the 5th place Tigers; and were swept at home, 0-3.  It was Sept 18th, and Cleveland was now 2 games back with 5 to play.  New York had 7 games left.   Cleveland then split there two game series at Chicago; and New York went 3-0 vs. Washington.   The Indians would need to win all 3 games at Detroit, while the Yankees lost all 4 at Boston, to force a tie at season’s end.  On the final Friday of the season, New York lost the 1st game of the doubleheader with Boston 8-4;  but ended the suspense with a 3-2 victory in the nightcap.

Once again, it was shown that pennant races expand the concept of “meaningful games played” to include teams who are not in postseason contention.  Cleveland’s fate for the 1955 American League season was in part determined by their 9-13 record vs. the eventual last-place Washington Senators. Furthrmore, during a crucial 3-game series against the Detroit Tigers, they forgot how to hit while facing a 5th place pitching staff.  Meanwhile, during the most crucial period, New York was taking care of business, winning 8 in a row vs. those same Tiger and Senators (plus 4th place Boston).

New York was lead by Mickey Mantle  (.306, 37 HRs,  99 RBIs  and Yogi Berra (.272,  27 HR, 108 RBIs).  Berra would go on to win the AL MVP Award.  Top pitchers included Whitey Ford (18-7, 2.63 ERA), Bob Turley (17-13, 3.06); and Tommy Byrne (16-5, 3.15).  They played their cross-town rival Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1955 World Series.  Brooklyn, after winning the 1955 NL Pennant Race by 13.5 games over Milwaukee, beat New York in the World Series, 4-3.  It was their 1st ever World Championship.

Resources:  http://baseballraces.comhttp://baseball-reference.com

1954-National League

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The 1954 pennant race in the National League went through several distinct phases.  By June 15, the league saw 17 lead changes and 15 ties.   The only team not to hold the lead was the Pittsburgh Pirates.  And they would even play a role in the race during its later stages.   The lead changes were as follows: 4/13-CIN;  4/17-CHC;  4/18-CIN;  4/19-PHI;  4/24-BRO;  4/27-CIN;  4/30-BRO;  5/1-CIN;  5/2-PHI;  5/7-BRO;  5/12-PHI;  5/19-STL;  5/23-BRO;  5/24-MIL;  6/2-BRO;  6/15-NYG.  As late as June 2, there were 4 teams within 1 1/2 games of 1st place: Brooklyn 25-19 (—); Milwaukee 20-14 (1); Philadelphia 23-19 (1.5); and New York 23-19 (1.5).  Only one of these 4 teams would not have a role in the race through most of the rest of the season.

After June 15, things would not be as choatic.   At this point, the 1st Division was as follows:  NYG 35-21 (—);  BRO 34-22 (1);  MIL 29-24 (4.5);  PHI 28-25 (5.5).    From June 16 to July 2, when the Giants (now 49-23) went on a 14-2 run, the Dodgers (44-28) fell to 5 games behind.  Milwaukee who had fallen to 1 game over .500 at 36-35, were now in 4th place 12.5 games back.  By July 21, things were even worse.  New York was 62-30 (—);  Brooklyn 55-37 (7); and Milwaukee 46-45 (15.5)

Crucial to this Dodger change in fortune was the crushing results of their home and home series with the Giants at the Polo Grounds from June 29-July 1; and at Ebbets Field from July 6-July 8.  Arriving at the Polo Grounds 1 game back, Brooklyn proceeded to lose all three games 4-2, 5-2, and 5-2.  They left 4 games back.  Home cooking didn’t help, as the Giants won the next three games 5-2;  and adding insult to injury, 10-2 and 11-2.  New York had defeated 3 of Brooklyn’s 4 starters (Erskine, Roe, and Newcombe); and one of them twice (Erskine).  The relievers fared no better as New York beat two of them (Loes and Palica).  Before the 6 games the Giants were 1 game ahead of the Dodgers.  By the time they left Brooklyn, they had an advantage of 6 1/2 games.

On July 21, New York’s lead was still a formidable 7 games over Brooklyn.  Then, for the next week and a half,  Brooklyn and New York alternated playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  First the Dodgers beating Cincinnati (1 time), St. Louis (2), the Giants (1), and Chicago (2), went 6-1; while the Giants went 1-6.  Then they gave most of it back, losing to Chicago and more importantly 3 out of 4 vs. Milwaukee.   While New York went 4-1,  Brooklyn had gone 1-4.  On Aug. 2,  Brooklyn was 5 games back.  Meanwhile, Milwaukee who had been 15 games back on July 15, after going 13-4, were in 3rd place 10 games behind.

Here, a new phase of the season began, giving Dodger fans hope that this could indeed be their year.  From August 3 to August 11 Brooklyn would win 5 games while losing 3.  During that same period New York went 3-4, with 3 of those loses coming at the hands of Milwaukee.  The Braves came into the Polo Grounds and proceeded to sweep the Giants in front of their faithfuls: 6-5, 4-2, and 5-2.  Gene Conley beat Johnny Antonelli;  Lou Burdette, Ruben Gomez; and Warren Spahn bested Sal Maglie. Now 3 1/2 games back, the Dodgers were ready to host the Giants in a 3-game series at Ebbets Field.

Giant manager Leo Durocher started Sal Maglie; and Walter Alston countered with 14-game winner Carl Erskine.  The Dodgers drew 1st blood in the 6th, when singles by Erskine and Junior Gilliam set up a sacrific fly by Pee Wee Reese.  The Giants temporarily went ahead in the 7th on a double by Don Mueller, a single by Willie May, and another double by Monte Irvin.  Brooklyn put the game away for good in their half of the inning, when Gil Hodges singled and Carl Furillo hit a home run.  1st game: BRO 3 NYG 2.

In the 2nd game it looked like the Giants were going to take back their game in the standings.  In the 1st 5 innings they scored 5 runs off  starter Russ Meyer and reliever Clem Labine.  But Brooklyn scored 4 runs off of New York starter Ruben Gomez in the 6th, on another HR by Furillo, this time a grand slammer; and two runs off of loser Windy McCall  in the 7th on Roy Campanella 2-RBI single.  The winning pitcher for Brooklyn was Jim Hughes.  2nd game:  BRO 6 NYG 5.

The last game of the series was the easiest for the Dodgers, as they scored 3 in the 2nd, 1 in the 3rd, and 4 in the 5th off starter Jim Hearn and relievers Al Corwin, Marv Grissom, and Paul Giel.  For Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson had two doubles and two RBIs.  Duke Snider had a HR and two RBIs.  Bill Loes was the starter and winner.  3rd game:  BRO 9 NYG 4.

Brooklyn had gone into the series trailing New York by 3 1/2 games, but with their sweep they were only 1/2 games behind.    Meanwhile, Milwaukee at 66-47 was still in 3rd place, only 3 1/2 games back.  Would they play a significant role during the remainder of the season?  The 1/2 game behind was the closest the Dodgers had been to the Giants since New York had taken 1st place.  Would they finally be able to surpass them?  The next two weeks would put New York and Brooklyn on a see-saw.

First,  New York swept 2 3-game series at home from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, while Brooklyn went 3-4 against these same teams.  On Aug 22, New York’s lead over Brooklyn was back to 4 games.   Milwaukee was 2-4 during this week and were now 7 1/2  back.  From Aug. 23-Aug. 29  Brooklyn won 2 games each at Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.  New York was 4-3 at Chicago, Milwaukee, and St.Louis.  The Dodgers had cut the lead back to 1 1/2 games.  Milwaukee, who had gone 6-7,  was no longer in contention, still 7 1/2 back.   The 1954 National League season was about to enter it’s final phase.

Over the next two weeks,  New York would play consistently good ball, going 10-6.  Most significantly, they beat Brooklyn at the Polo Grounds 2 game to 1. During the same time, Brooklyn experienced unwelcome inconsistency.  They would first go 2-8, losing the series to New York and a Labor Day doubleheader to last-place Pittsburgh.  Then they won 7 in a row verses St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cincinnati.  Time was running out and the Dodgers were losing ground.  On Sept. 15, they were still in reach of 1st, 3 games behind.  But then while New York was finishes up its 3-game sweep of Milwaukee and splitting two games with Philadlephia, the Dodgers put another nail in their own coffin.

Brooklyn lost the last game of its series with Cincinnati, 9-3 and travelled to Pittsburgh for 2 games.  Pittsburgh in true spoiler fashion won both games, 9-1 and 1-0.  In the 2nd game Bob Friend pitched a 6-hit shutout.  In a crucial part of the pennant race, the lowly Pirates had shown that all teams are participants in pennant races by going 4-0 against the Dodgers.  On Sept 19, the Brooklyn Dodgers were 5 1/2 games in back of their archrival Giants.  But the season was not over yet, as Brooklyn was about to play New York in another 3-game series at Ebbets Field.  A sweep by the Dodgers might give them new life.

However, the hole  Brooklyn  dug for itself was too large; and they were up against an obviously superior opponent.  In the 1st game, the Giants scored all the runs they would need in the 1st inning on a walk to Whitey Lockman, and singles by Al Dark,  Willie Mays, and Hank Thompson.  The final score was NYG 9 BRO 1.  Sal Maglie was the winning pitcher and Carl Erskine the loser.  New York had clinched the pennant on the last Monday of the season.

When trying to figure out the factors in the 1954 NL pennant race, we see that New York played well against their two main rivals.  Their record in their season series with Brooklyn was 13-9.  Against Milwaukee they were 12-10.   Their hitters and pitchers included the two best players in the league.  Hitting was led by NL MVP Willie Mays, who batted .345 with 41 HR and 110 RBI.    The pitching staff was anchored by Johnny Antonelli (21-7/2.30 ERA).  Antonelli finished 3rd in the NL MVP balloting.  Other Giant stars were Hank Thompson and Al Dark (26 and 20 HRs); and starter Ruben Gomez (19-9/2.88) and reliever Hoyt Wilhelm (12-4/2.10). 

 The New York Giants would go on to beat the heavily favored Cleveland Indians, 4-0 in the 1954 World Series.  Anybody who experienced the battle-tested Giants performance during the 1954 National League pennant race should not have been surprised with the Series’ results.

Resources:  http://baseballrace.com; http://baseball-reference.com

1954-American League

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The 1954 American League pennant race was remarkable because a team that won 103 games finishing 8 games back in 2nd, while another team ended in 3rd with a .610 winning percentage. The pennant winner finisher 111-43, a .721 percentage.  The season started out typically enough.  On May 1, Detroit was in 1st place with a 8-4 record.  Chicago had a 1/2 game better record, but there 10-5 record put them percentage points behind Detroit.  Philadelphia was in 3rd 7-5 (1) and Cleveland was in 4th 7-6 (1 1/2).  On June 1, all the principals mentioned above were in the  1st Division, which was:  CLE 28-13 (—);  CHW 28-15 (1);  NYY 26-17 (3);  DET 21-17 (6.5).

1st place would bounce back and forth between the Indians and White Sox until 6/12, when Cleveland took over the lead by 1/2 game over Chicago.  They stayed there the rest of the season.  However, for a good part of the season, the race was close enough to keep things interesting.  Between June 22-July 1, Chicago stayed between 1-3 games of Cleveland.  Chicago’s fate was sealled when they could not win 1 of the 4 games played at Cleveland Stadium.  The Yankees took over possession of 2nd place on July 2, and it was their turn to keep the race with the Indians close.

This they did through most of the rest of the season.  Through the games of August 19, the team was never more than 3 games behind the front runner.  New York even shared 1st place on 7/20.  As symbolized the two teams’ battle during this period, the results of the games played in New York, on July 23-25, and then Cleveland, on Aug 3-5, was 3-3. 

When Cleveland came to Yankee Stadium on August 31, they were 4 1/2 games to the good.  New York would just about have to sweep the Indians to stay in the race. In the first game, Cleveland’s ace Early Wynn held the Yankees to 1 run; and won the game 6-1.  New York won the next two games 4-1 and 3-2, but the 3 1/2 games behind that this left them would be the closest they would get.  The  1st Division on Sept 4 was:  CLE 96-39 (1);  NYY 82-42 (3.5);  CHW 87-49 (9.5);  DET 59-75 (36.5). 

That one lose seemed to take the wind out of the Yankee’s sails.  After Sept 5, New York would play .500 ball— winning 9 and losing 9.  Cleveland continued their torrid pace finishing the season 15-4.  The final standings on 9/26 was:  CLE 111-43 (—);  NYY 103-51 (8);  CHW 94-60 (17);  BOS  69-85 (42);  DET 68-86 (43);  WAS 66-88 (45);  BAL 54-100 (57);  PHI 51-103 (60).

Combining hitting and pitching, the Cleveland Indians were one of the best teams in Major League history.  There 746 runs scored was 2nd behind New York; and their 504 runs allowed was 1st in the league.  Bobby Avila led the team with a .341 average.  Al Rosen (.300, 32 HR, 126 RBI) and Larry Doby (.272, 32, 126) were other hitting stars.  Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72), Early Wynn (23-11, 2.73), and Mike Garcia (19-8, 2.64) anchored an excellent staff.

In the World Series the Indians did not fare as well.

Resources:  http://baseballrace.comhttp://baseball-reference.com

1952-National League

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The 1952 National League season was similar to 1951, as the too top contenders for the flag were New York and Brooklyn.  The difference, however, was the order of finish.  This time, the Dodgers took the lead on June 1,  built it to 10.5 on August 25, and, except for one day, never were less than 3 games ahead the rest of the season.

Still there was some excitement in September.  New York closed the lead to 3 games on 9/13 and it was still 3 games after the games of 9/17.  On 9/19-9/21 though the Dodgers won three games against Boston and the Giants lost three in Philadelphia.  That was it.  While New York met the criteria for year long pennant contention (still having a chance after the next to last weekend), they met it barely.  On Tuesday, Sept 23 when Brooklyn beat Philadelphia, 5-4 New York’s chances for the pennant were over. 

 The final standings were:  BRO 96-57 .627 (–);  NYG 92-62 .597 (4.5);  STL 88-66 .571 (8.5);  PHI 87-67 .565 (9.5).  As was noted above, Brooklyn lost the 1952 World Series to the New York Yankees, 4-3.

Resources:  http://baseballrace.com; http://baseball-reference.com

1952-American League

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The 1952 season in the American League was interesting because of all the teams that had a chance at the pennant through a major part of the season.  Boston started it off with a flash and were at the top of the league  with a 10-3 record on May 1.  Three other teams, Chicago; Cleveland; and St. Louis were all tied for 2nd place at 9-6.  The Yankees who would play a major role in the race started slow and were 12-12 on May 15.  Boston had cooled off and were now 15-11 in 3rd place.  Cleveland was in 1st, winning 9 of 12.  Washington was in 2nd at 14–10, 2 1/2 games back. 

An indication of the early fortunes of Cleveland and New York occurred when the Yankees travelled to Cleveland to play a  3 game series on May 6-8.  The Indians swept the series 1-0; 7-2 ; and 12-5.   The Indians would  maintain their lead throughout the rest of May.  However,  by the start of June, New York was recovering it footing;  and the top of the league saw 1st place switching hands between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians.  On June 14 New York was in 1st place at 29-19.  Boston and Cleveland were in a virtual tie for 2nd at 31-22 and 32-33 respectively.  Chicago was in 4th 29-25 (3);  and even Washington and Philadelphia who were 1 and 2 games under .500 were just 5 1/2 and 6 games out. 

For the next month and a half the most interesting aspect of the season was the see-saw battle for 2nd place.  Chicago (6/22;  6/29; 7/3;  7/6), Boston (6/23;  6/25;  7/17), Cleveland (6/24;  7/2;  7/5;  7/12);  and Washington (6/28;  7/1) all took possession of the slot until Cleveland took control on 7/27.  During that time period, in games involving these 4 teams Chicago was 8-13;  Boston was 9-11;  Cleveland was 10-11;  and Washington was 14-7.  From July 16 to July 27, the Yankees were 3 1/2- 5 games in the lead, but accept for that brief period, no more than 3 games separated 1st and 2nd place. 

 With New York in 1st and Cleveland in 2nd, this close pattern was maintained until August 22 when Cleveland went into 1st by 1 percentage point.  New York would regain the lead by 1 game the next day.  On that date there were still 5 teams in shouting distance of 1st place.  The standings were as follows:  CLE  69-51 (—);  NYY 70-52 (—);  BOS  63-54 (4 1/2);  PHI 62-56 (6);  CHI 64-58 (6);  WAS 63-58 (6.5).  The Indian’s victory on August 22 evened the season series with the Yankees at 10-10.  Interestingly, the last two games of the season between the two teams would determine the pennant winner.

On August 23, the two teams played the 2nd game of a two game series at Yankee Stadium.  Yankee manager Casey Stengel picked 14- game winnerVic Raschi to start.  Indian Al Lopez tapped 15 game winner Early Wynn.  Both pitchers posted zeroes through 3 1/2 innings.  In New York’s part of the 4th they scored 1 run on doubles by Gene Woodling and Joe Collins.  The score was still 1-0 when Cleveland took their turn at bat in the 8th.  Barney McCosky pinch hit for Ray Boone and struck out.  Another pinch hitter Bill Glynn singled.  After Hank Majeski pinch hit for Early Wynn, Dale Mitchell doubled to right but Glynn was thrown out— Hank Bauer to Billy Martin to Yogi Berra.  The most serious threat to Vic Raschi was over as he pitched a 6-hit shutout.  The Yankees won 1-0.

New York again travelled to Cleveland for one game on Sunday, September 14.  The Yankees started Ed Lopat; the Indians Mike Garcia.  The Yankees would score all the runs they would need in the 3rd inning on singles by Joe Collins and Yogi Berra, and Hank Bauer’s RBI ground out.  The final score was New York 7 Cleveland 1.

Yes, the New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians in their last two meetings of the 1952 season; and New York’s final margin over Cleveland was two games.  Over the entire course  of the 154-game season the Yankees record vs. Cleveland was 12-10;  and the final two games was the difference of 2 games in an otherwise .500 season between the two teams.  Of course the Yankees did the job against the rest of the league, going 25-7, a torrid .781 pace, after August 22.  And they needed every one of those wins because Cleveland was finishing 24-10, two games off the Yankees mark.  Without the two New York games, Cleveland finishes even with the Yankees torrid pace.  The difference made New York the American League Champions in 1952.

And what of the other 4 contenders?  The rest of their seasons were at best average.  Chicago finished at 81-73, 14 games back; Philadelphia 79-75 (16);  Washington 78-76 (17); and Boston 76-78 (19).  This was the affect that the Yankees and Indians great finish had on the rest of the league.  New York went on to beat Brooklyn 4-3 in the 1952 World Series.

Resources:  http://baseballrace.comhttp://baseball-reference.com

1951-National League

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

The beginning of the 1951 National League season was a foreshadowing of how it would end.  On April 29  Brooklyn was in a virtual tie for 1st place at 8-4; and the New York Giants after starting the season at 2-12 were 7 games behind them.  When New York proceeded to win 12 of the next 19, they were in 5th place 3.5 games off the pace.  Things would get considerablely worse before they got better for the Giants.

At 14-10 Brooklyn took over possession of 1st on May 13. They would hold on to this position for nearly the rest of the season.  On May 31 the standings were as follows:  Brooklyn 24-16 (-);  St. Louis  22-17 (2);  Chicago 19-17 (3.5);  Boston 21-19 (3.5).  New York at 21-21 were in 5th place, 4.5 games back.  By June 12, St. Louis had gone 4-8 and was in 4th; Chicago 3-8 in 7th; and Boston 5-7 in 5th.  New York was 7-5 during the two weeks and was now in 2nd 6 games behind Brooklyn who had gone 8-2.  The Giants from here on in would be various amount of games behind the Dodgers.  The rest of the league, except as opponents of Brooklyn and New York, became irrelevant in this pennant race.

By August 11 Brooklyn at 70-36 was 13 games ahead of New York, who had a 59-51 record.  From April til August 9 Brooklyn and NewYork had played 15 games with the Dodgers winning 12 and the Giants 3.  On August 12 while playing Philadelphia in a Sunday doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, New York won the 1st 2 of 16 straight games.  Whitey Lockman lead the team with 12 RBIs; and Monty Irvin and Wes Westrum had 10 each.  Al Corwin and George Spenser each won 3 games.  On August 14 -16 at the Polo Grounds the Giants began to change their fortunes against the Dodgers by sweeping them 4-2; 3-1; and 2-1.  By the last day of the streak, after beating Chicago 5-4 and 6-3, New York had taken a whopping 8 games of of Brooklyn’s lead and were 5 games back.

For the next three weeks, despite the Giants winning 3 out of 4 games played between the two teams, the Dodgers maintained at least a 5 game lead.  New York then went on a 9-1 tear vs. Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Boston, and Philadelphia.  When Brooklyn lost to Philadelphia at Shibe Park on Sept 28 4-3, the Giants entered the last weekend of the season tied for 1st place with the Dodgers.  Both teams were on the road, with New York at Boston and Brooklyn at Philadelphia.  Both contenders won on Saturday, the
Giants 3-0 and the Dodgers 5-o, thus  leaving the determination of the pennant race to the last day of the season.

Twenty game winner Larry Jansen started for New York;  Jim Wilson for Boston.  The Braves drew first blood scoring a run in the 1st.  The Giants answered back with a run of their own in the 2nd; then 2 more in the 3rd and 5th.  The score remained 3-1 until the bottom of the 9th when Boston attempted a comeback.  Bob Addis doubled.  Sam Jethroe singled him to third.  Earl Torgeson’s force out scored Addis.  Sid Gordon’s ground ball forced out Torgeson; and Walker Cooper’s single put Braves on  1st and 2nd.  But Jansen induced a fly by Marshall to left and New York had won their game 3-2.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Brooklyn’s starter Preacher Roe and relievers Ralph Branca and Clyde King were ineffectual, giving up 8 runs in 4 innings pitched.  Brooklyn hitters however kept the Dodgers in the game by scoring a run in the 3rd and 4th and 3 in the 5th.  So after five innings the score was 8-5.  It stayed this way until the Dodger’s eight.  Gil Hodges and Bobby Cox started the inning off with singles.  Rube Walker’s double made the score 8-7 and Carl Furillo tied it at 8 with a single.  Brooklyn relievers would hold Philadelphia in check for 10 innings, the biggest threat being in the 12th when with 1 out and the bases loaded Don Newcombe struck out Del Ennis and Eddie Waitkus.  Brooklyn won it 9-8 on a Jackie Robinson HR in the 14th.  With 154 games completed, the Giants had staged the greatest comeback in baseball history, but it would take the biggest drama of all to complete this story.

Game 1 of the best 2 out of 3 playoff took place on Monday, October 1 at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn. New York’s manager Leo Durocher chose Jim Hearn as his starting pitcher.  Brooklyn’s Chuck Dressen chose Ralph Branca.  Brooklyn struck first in the bottom of the second.  However in a bit more forshadowing, the Giants scored all the run they would need when in the 4th inning Monte Irvin single and Bobby Thomson hit a two run homer off Branca.  Monty Irvin hit another HR in the 8th and New York lead the series 1-0 on the strength of their 3-1 victory.

The next day the series shifted to the borough of Manhattan as the Giants took home field advantage at the Polo Grounds.  But this game would belong totally to the Dodgers.  Starter and winner Clem Labine pitched a six hit shutout and Brooklyn was triumphant 10-0.  Led by Jackie Robinson’s and Rube Walker’s 3 hits and one HR each, the Dodgers pounded loser Seldon Jones, and Brooklyn relievers, for 13 hits and 26 total bases.  And all on a day when Jackie Robinson’s 1st inning 2-run HR would have been sufficient for the victory.  The stage was now set for the winner take all 3rd game.

For this game played in the Polo Grounds Leo Durocher chose his 23-game winner Sal Maglie to start.  Dressen countered with his 20-game winner Don Newcombe.  Neither pitcher would be around by the end of the game to claim the decisions.  Jackie Robinson got the Dodgers off on the right foot when his 1st inning single drove in Peewee Reese, who reached base on a walk and 2nd on a Maglie walk to Duke Snider.  Both hurlers then proceeded to pitch goose eggs until the bottom of the 7th, when a combination of a Irvin double, a Lockman sacrifice bunt, and a Thomson sacrifice fly to center tied the score at 1-1.  But the Giants share of the lead was short lived.

In the top of the  8th Brooklyn scored 3 runs on a wild pitch and singles by Andy Pafko and Bobby Cox.  When Newcombe put the side down in order in the bottom of the 9th, and reliever Larry Jansen did the same in the top of the 9th,  New York took its last turn at bat down 4-1.  It looked as if their tremendous pennant run was going to fall an inning short until….

….Alvin Dark and Don Mueller started the inning off with singles, putting runners on 1st and 3rd.  After Monty Irvin fouled out to 1st, Whitey Lockman hit a double scoring Dark.  Mueller was injured sliding into third and was replaced by Clint Hartung.  Manager Dressen went to the mound and in a questionable move replaced Newcombe with Ralph Branca.  Bobby Thomson then strode to the plate.  The 1st pitch was a fast ball down the middle for strike one.  The next pitch was a fast ball that Branca meant to set-up his next pitch a curveball, but Thomson swung and sent a low line drive toward the left field stands.  Andy Pafko playing left field was hoping the ball would sink and hit the wall but it went over it at the 315 ft. mark.

All pandimonium broke out at the Polo Grounds as Giant announcer Russ Hodges made the most famous call in baseball history over radio station WMCA-AM:

“THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!  THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!  THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!  Bobby Thomson hits into  the lower deck of the leftfield stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy!  HEEEY-OH!!!

The Giant’s indeed had finished their miraculous run at the 1951 National League pennant, with an even more miraculous 5-4 victory over the Dodgers.  But this was also midnight for Cinderella, as the Giants would lose the World Series 4-2 to their rival from across the Harlem River, the New York Yankees.

Resources: http://baseballrace.com; http://baseball-reference.com; http://wikipedia.org/wiki/shot_heard_’round_the_world(baseball)

1951-American League

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

While most people remember 1951 for perhaps the best pennant race ever between Brooklyn and New York in the National League, the season also saw another long pennant race in the American League.  On May 1, Washington (8-3), Cleveland (8-3), and New York (9-4) were all tied for 1st place.  Boston was in 4th place 1.5 games back at 7-5.  On May 5 the Yankees took over sole possession of 1st place and with a 14-7 record maintained their position until Chicago (in the midst of a 14 game winning streak) tied them at 24-9 on May 27.  Boston was now in 3rd place at 22-13, 3 games behind.  The White Sox would remain in 1st place throughout the month of June.

Chicago would stay near the top of the league through a good part of July.  The high point of the White Sox season would come on July 17-July 19 when the Yankees came in for a three games series in Chicago.  Chicago won the 1st game 4-3, New York the 2nd 5-1.  In the rubber match of the series Chicago won 2-1. Pitcher Howie Judson bested Eddie Lopat while 3B Bob  Dillinger had the winning RBI.  After losing 4 straight to Washington, 2 out of 3 to Boston, and 3 straight to New York;  on July 29, Chicago found themselves in 4th place 6.5 games back.  Their time in the ’51 pennant race was finished.

The standings on July 29 was as follows:  NYY 59-35 (—);  CLE 57-38 (2);  BOS 57-38 (2);  CHW  54-44 (6.5).  The Indians, who had been as much as 6 games back on July 3, would be the Yankees main competitor for the rest of the season.  Taking over 1st on Aug 8, Cleveland would hold or tie for it with New York until Aug 30.  New York would never be more than 3 games behind.  On Aug 30, at 75-51, Boston still was close enough to make a run in 3rd place, 4.5 games back.

Between Sept 3 and 15, Cleveland held on to 1st place. Including 2 ties, New York was never more than 1 game behind.  On Sept 15, with Cleveland openning a 2 game series in New York, Cleveland was 90-54 (—),  New York 87-53 (1), and Boston still close at 84-55 (3.5).  New York won the 1st game 5-1, as Allie Reynolds won his 15th game to beat Bob Feller.  Joe DiMaggio had 2 RBIs and Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Reynolds one each.  Cleveland and New York were again tied for 1st.  The Yankees took over sole possession of 1st when they won the 2nd game, 2-1.  Eddie Lopat outduelled Bob Lemon for his 20th win; and Phil Rizutto drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th.

From that point New York never lost the lead;  and Boston dropped out of the picture.  On Sept 28, 2.5 games behind  New York, Cleveland was idle.  The Yankees swept the Red Sox in a doubleheader, 8-0 and 11-3.  Reynolds and Vic Raschi were the winners; Joe Collins and DiMaggio the hitting stars.  It was now New York 95-56 (—) and Cleveland 92-60 (3.5).  With 2 days left in the season, New York had finally clinched the 1951 American League pennant.  For good measure, the Yankees swept the Red Sox in the last 3 games of the season.

references: http://baseballrace.comhttp://baseball-reference.com

1950-National League

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The 1950 pennant race in the National League started off with a bang.  On May 9 Brooklyn, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Boston were all within 1.5 games of the top.  The lead  had changed 7 times!  By June 8th there were 3 teams tied for 1st Place, St.Louis and Brooklyn at 26-17 and Philadelphia at 27-18.  Boston with a record of 24-19 was just 2 games back in 4th.  Between May 9th and the 4th of July the lead changed 16 more times.  On that date the standings were as follows:  St Louis 41-27 (—);  Philadelphia 40-28 (1);  Boston 39-30 (2.5);  Brooklyn 37-30(3.5)

Through most of the rest of July the lead went back and forth between Philadelphia and St. Louis, with Brooklyn and Boston staying close.  But on July 25th Philadelphia took the lead, and  little by little began to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.  While the Phillies were going 13-4, the Braves went 10-8; the Dodgers 8-7;  and the Cardinals 6-9.  So on Aug 10, Boston was 6 games; and Brooklyn and St. Louis were both 6.5 in back of Philadelphia.  For the next month, no one was closer than 4 games; and on September 15, Philadelphia at 86-53 was in 1st 7.5 games ahead of Brooklyn, who were 76-58.  Boston was now 8 games back; and St. Louis had fallen to 5th Place, 15 games off the pace.

Brooklyn was still 7.5 games back at 79-61 to Philadelphia’s 88-55 on Sept 20.  From this point, the Dodgers attempted one of the most dramatic comebacks in baseball history.  On Sept 29 after going 9-3, and the Phillies going 2-7, the Dodger found themselves 2 games out with 2 games left to play.  Philadelphia was coming to Ebbets Field to play Brooklyn in those two games.  Brooklyn needed to win both games to force a playoff.

On Saturday Sept 30, Brooklyn started Erv Palica (12-8) vs. Philadelphia’s Bob Miller (11-5).   After 4.5 innings of scoreless ball the Dodgers scored 4 runs in the 5th.  Duke Snider hit a two run homer.  Philadelphia answered with 3 runs of their own in the 6th to keep it close; but Roy Campanella hit a 3-run HR in the 8th.  Brooklyn won 7-3; and now it all came down to the final game of the season.

Both teams sent their aces to the hill, Robin Roberts (19-11) for the Phillies and Don Newcombe (19-10) for the Dodgers.  The game lived up to the public’s anticipation of a pitchers duel, as Roberts and Newcombe put up goose eggs for 5 innings.  The only runs they allowed through 9 were a run apiece by each team in the 6th.  The 1-1 tie came to an end when Dick Sisler hit a 3-run blast in the top of the  10th.  When Roberts blanked the Dodgers in their half of the innings, the Phillies had their 1st pennant since 1915 with a 4-1 victory.

In the 1950 World Series New York beat Philadelphia 4-0.

References: http://baseballrace.comhttp://baseball-reference.com

1950-American League

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The 1950 American League season resulted in another exciting pennant race that lasted just about to the end of the wire.  Detroit got off to a fast start; and from the 1st day of the season until May 15 they remained in 1st place.  To this point New York, Boston, and Washington were the  Tigers main competitors.  Except for three days when New York was on top, Detroit maintained their lead through  the 4th of July and beyond. On July 4th the standings were as follows:  Detroit 46-24 (—);  NYY 43-29 (4);  CLE 42-30 (5);  BOS 41-32 (6.5).

Things would begin to tighten up, and for the rest of the summer, NewYork and Cleveland would be chasing the Tigers.  Sometimes New York would tie for the lead; and sometimes Cleveland and New York would flip/flop 2nd and 3rd place; but through it all, Detroit did not falter.  On Aug 29 Detroit and New York were in a virtual tie for 1st place with Detroit .002 ahead, .628 to .626.  The Indians and Red Sox were tied for 3rd, each two games back.

Between August 29 and September 16 the lead would change 5 times, swinging back and forth between the Yankees and Tigers.  As late as Sept 21, the two teams were tied with records of 91-53.  Boston was still in the race at 89-55, only 2 games back.  This situation would not last and it was Detroit, who led for most of the season, running out of gas.  Over the next 5 days the Tigers, while playing Cleveland and St. Louis, lost 4 out of 5. 

On the other hand, the Yankees took care of the Red Sox by winning two; and then put the pennant out of reach from Detroit by winning 3 out of 4 against Washington.  The final blow would come on Sept 28.  New York would need to lose its last three games while Detroit win their last two.  Detroit won, but so did New York.  The AL pennant would again fly over Yankee Stadium.

References:  http:// baseballrace.com;  http://Baseball-refernce.com

1949-National League

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The 1949 National League pennant race started in a frenzy as Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Boston, Brooklyn, and the New York Giants changed leads 10 times through the month of April.  May saw Boston and the Giants share the lead 11 days; and on the 29th of the month, Brooklyn joined the other 2 teams for a 3-way tie at 21-16.  From there, until July 4th, Brooklyn dominated 1st place; but teams like St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Boston were never too far behind.  On the 4th, the standings were: Brooklyn 44-28 (—);  St. Louis  42-30 (2);  Philadelphia 40-35 (5.5);  Boston 40-35 (5.5).

Through the rest of July and into August, St. Louis and Brooklyn were tied 7 days and the lead changed 5 times.  On August 20th St. Louis took the lead and held it until 9/29, with the Dodgers never more than 1.5 games behind. After the next to last Sunday of the season, St. Louis was 95-54, 1.5 games ahead of Brooklyn who were 94-56.  Before the last weekend of the season Brooklyn beat Boston twice and St. Louis lost 3 straight to Pittsburgh and one to Chicago.  Brooklyn had gone back into the lead by one game. 

On the last weekend of the season St. Louis continued to play in Chicago while the Dodgers travelled to Philadelphia.  Both teams lost on Saturday and the season came down to the last day.  The Cardinals would have to win while the Dodgers lose to force an end of season playoff.  In Chicago St. Louis’ ace Howie Pollet started against Chicago’s Johnny Schmitz.  St. Louis started the game off quickly scoring 3 runs in the 2nd, then 1 in the 3rd, and 2 in the 4th.  Leading 6-1 after 5, St. Louis never looked back, winning 13-5.  Pollet won his 20th; and Stan Musial was the hitting star going 3 for 5 with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Brooklyn was locked in a struggle for their lead. Brooklyn’s starter Don Newcombe and then reliever Rex Barney could not hold 5-0 and 7-4 leads. After 6 innings the score was tied 7-7.  Reliever Jack Banta pitched 4.1 scoreless innings and he got the win when Brooklyn scored 2 runs in the 10th to win 9-7.  Carl Furillo went 4 for 6 and Gil Hodges 2 for 4 and each scored two runs.  Pitcher Newcombe and Roy Campanella each had 2 RBIs for the National League Champion Dodgers.  In the World Series against the New York Yankees, Brooklyn would lose 4 games to 1.

Throughout the long season Brooklyn’s best hitters were Jackie Robinson .342 BA 16 HRs and 124 RBIs; Carl Furillo .322/18/106; and Gil Hodges .285/23/115.  Their best pitchers were Don Newcombe 17-8 3.17 ERA and Precher Roe 15-6 2.79.

References: http://baseballrace.comhttp://baseball-reference.com